Jessica Nettles grew up with one foot in the real world and the other in a world mixed with dabs of spiritual belief, science-fiction and fantasy dreams, and spooky experiences that she, nor her family, could quite explain. At age 11, she found the perfect outlet for this bizarre childhood in the form of writing. Her influences range from Ray Bradbury to Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson. She reads as voraciously as she can while balancing her career as an English Instructor and a writer of Southern Gothic and Historical Fantasy. She is also on the board of the Broadleaf Writing Association in Atlanta, Georgia and is a member of HWA Atlanta.
Her first novel, Children of Menlo Park, will be released by Falstaff Books in the fall of 2021, and her short story (one of many, many short stories she’s written), “The Undead Have No Dignity” was published in Off the Beaten Path 4 by Prospective Press. To find more about her and her work check out jessicanettlesauthor.com very soon (the website should be up by DragonCon). She loves her beautiful adult children, who are successful in their own right, as well as her two black cats. She lives in Powder Springs, Georgia. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
What’s new and exciting in your life as an author?
The last few months have been really amazing. My story “The Undead Have No Dignity” was published in the Off the Beaten Path 4 anthology back in June. This marks the first anthology I’ve been published in, so it’s a sort of landmark in my writing journey. I also wrote a new story, “Cancer at Zero Degrees,” which got some attention back in June online (it’s no longer available where I posted it). Later this fall, my first novel, Children of Menlo Park, will be released from Falstaff Books. I am hoping to have some ARCs at DragonCon where I will also be doing a reading with my publisher and friend, John Hartness, who is the author of the fabulous Quincy Harker Demon Hunter series as well as the equally fabulous Bubba the Monster Hunter series. I have high hopes that my website will be live by that time as well. My best friend in the entire world, Amanda Canup, is designing it for me, and the previews I’ve gotten so far are just beautiful.
What is your connection to the American South?
I was born and raised in Georgia and grew up in West Cobb County when it was still pretty rural. My momma is from Cobb County and my daddy is from Chatham (Savannah) County, so I got a double dose of Southern. I’m a child of the 1970s and 80s, so I witnessed a lot of the changes and stress that has faced the South, particularly in the Atlanta-area, as it has attempted to morph and move away from what some call “our heritage” to become a more international and modern city and region. On a more basic level, I feel the connection to the South in the way I tell stories. I believe there is a sort of story magic that runs throughout the American South, and a lot of folk in this region know how to tap into it.
How has that connection to the South informed your work as a writer?
Not all of my stories are Southern, but I think there is a sensibility that runs through my work that is somehow, innately Southern. There are themes that run through my stories like family, belief, food, secrets, and strange doings (for lack of a better term). Lots of writers in lots of different places write about the same things, but somehow, the South makes all of these things seem louder and more intense, especially secrets and strange doings. When I write, often my stories begin with a secret or with someone not fitting in to the “family,” or some sort of darkness. That’s something else about the South—our people are born knowing how to hide darkness under smiling faces and tables filled with homemade food. Of course, if you’re someone like me, I want to look under the tablecloth and see that darkness and look it in the eye.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
My story “We All Gotta Eat” will appear in the HWA ATL anthology, Southern Nightmares, Vol. 1: Georgia Gothic (I’m not sure when the pub date is for this yet). I will also be a reader on Pseudopod this fall, which I’m really excited about because I got to read a really awesome Southern Gothic story by Michael McDowell. I’m also working diligently on my second novel, Kudzu Ridge, which is not even in the same world as my first novel. On top of finishing the second novel, I’m in the planning stages for two new novels, which continue the adventures started in Children of Menlo Park, and I have some ideas for a series about three witch sisters who live in a town much like my hometown. I’m also working on a short story for something called Scary Stories by the Fire, which is a Halloween event in Atlanta.